Perambulating the Bounds

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sara La at Zeitgeist

There are several worthy shows opening this weekend in Nashville, it being the first weekend of the month and all. Sara La has new work at Zeitgeist, and that's the one I'm looking forward to the most. Not everything she does works for me, but when she's on I think she's dead on. The pieces I've responded most strongly have had her Chinese heritage as the first layer content, although what appealed to me as form and a very touching mingling of frailty and strength. There's another more surrealistic thread in her work, and some of those pieces haven't done it for me. But because of the quality in other places, I'm always interested in taking a look -- I'm convinced her paintings in that vein will start to register with me. It looks like that's what is in this Zeitgeist show (this one below is called "Ward"), so I'm hoping this will be the time it all comes together.

Zeitgeist is doing their opening on Saturday night, like all the downtown places. Some of that looks good, like Connie Noyes at Estel, which I did a pick on for the Scene, and Kristina Arnold at Twist. which Joe Nolan wrote up. For the last couple of years, Kristina has been undergoing big life events like getting married, getting step kids, moving to Bowling Green. It's great the way she processes these things into her work. Her installation at the Tennesse Arts Commission (a year and a half ago?) was much about moving to Kentucky--bubble wrap figured prominently. The Twist exhibit is called Twins and apparently takes up her evolving role as stepmom. I'm sure her previous work had personal narratives entwined in it, but what struck me then was the voice of the former biomedical researcher. I saw the pieces as more analytical, almost scientific expressions. Now the personal narrative is impossible to miss.

Monday, May 28, 2007

More Alexis Rockman

As with Tara Donovan, I seem to be a sucker for Alexis Rockman. In Cincinnati a couple of weeks ago I got to see a new work, Romantic Attachments at the Contemporary Arts Center. It’s a large scale painting that recasts Bernini’s Ecstasy of S. Teresa with a modern woman and a recreation of the hominid species Homo Georgicus serving as the angel. The figures are posed exactly as in the Bernini sculpture. Since this is painting, not sculpture, Rockman needed to fill in the setting of the scene. He puts the characters on a cliff over a desolate, stormy, deep perspective landscape. The foreground has vegetation details, insects, like any good Baroque painting. He gives his work the full Baroque treatment, even in the production process—he included a large number of studies of individual characters, landscapes, and the figure groupings, going so far as to do some of them in red chalk. It reminded me of Jeff Hand’s studies for his sculpture of suspended faux fur teddy bears, although the historical reference was more implicit in Jeff’s case. Working for a museum context, Rockman can afford to go whole hog with it. Of course Rockman also has a model of Homo Georgicus built by an artist at the American Museum of Natural History. (Homo Georgicus is a recent discovery (the species was identified in 2002), according to Wikipedia a connection between homo habilus and homo erectus, and maybe the early hominid to make it to Europe.)

The Rockman painting and subsidiary works are put together with sculptures by Tony Matelli of compromised chimps. As in dressed up in t-shirts, one impaled with a battery of implements (machete, shovel, garden sheers, arrow, crowbar, screwdriver) with an arm cut off and lying a few feet away, another guy leaning against a wall puking. A picture of how we anthropomorphize and torture primates.

It’s a good match with Rockman’s piece, the visual similarities between the early hominid and the chimpanzee and the two putting these figures into anachronistic and whatever the comparable word would be for making an animal do something not natural to it.

Beyond the fun of Rockman’s painting, and the loving embrace of the Baroque (seeing the Bernini work as a teenager was one of the strongest responses I remember having to any single piece of art), I thought about the substitution of the human ancestor for the angel as the messenger of divine or spiritual ecstasy. In some ways there is something primitive and primal about angels. I suppose people (but not Frank Capra or Wim Wenders) think of them as ethereal, perfected beings, but they are also less developed than humans. They are not possessed of the same free will. They are messengers, phenomena. Shaped like a human, but not capable of interacting on the same level. A different species, same genus, so a pre-homo sapiens ancestor is a good analogy.

There’s also the perspective of the woman who replaces Teresa. As a contemporary, where can she experience a similar sort of ecstasy? Apparently in encountering the connection to the deep history of human descent that places people in the evolutionary chain. Part of biodiversity, part of long timelines.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Collective Foundation

Every day, another tidbit from the most recent California trip. This time the Collective Foundation, featured at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (along with an R. Crumb retro and a fascinating William Pope L. project, the Black Factory). They describe themselves as

“a research and development organization offering services to artists and existing arts organizations. The Collective Foundation focuses on fostering mutually beneficial exchange and collective action by designing practical structures and utilizing new web-based technologies. Ultimately the central concern of the Collective Foundation is to serve as a catalytic and experimental beginning, proposing 'bottom-up' forms of organization and investigating new resources. This means inventing new forms of funding, and new ways of working together. Like the Art Workers' Coalition, who proposed pragmatic solutions to problems faced by artists, the Collective Foundation seeks alternative operational solutions, while reducing the bureaucratic formalities of overhead and administration.”

They’ve set up a multi-pronged operation supporting artists and arts organizations in the Bay area. To this end it has an audio stream people can upload contributions to (I’ve got it on now – it started out not so interesting but the last few entries have been better), makes grants, does some publishing. It supports things like Josh Greene’s Service Works, a micro-grant program for artists that he funds from one night a month of the tips he earns as a waiter. Mike Calway-Fagan from Nashville got one of these. Check out the pull-down menu on the main page, select “Service Works” and hit the $253 project. It looks like you can go to it directly. To me the most interesting component is their on-line journal, the Shotgun Review. They’ve published over 100 reviews of shows in the Bay area in less than 2 years. That’s hell of a lot, even for an open source approach.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Pencil stubs at Berkeley

Got a chance to stop by the Berkeley Art Museum this trip to California. There’s always at least a few delightful things there. This time one was Colony by Tara Donovan, a ridiculous number of pencils cut off to stubs of various lengths and stood up on end in bunches to create an island-like topographic blob covering several square feet of floor. This sort of fantasy landscape never ceases to entertain me, like Charles Simmonds’ little cliff dwellings. Donovan’s landscapes have something to do with dreams, something to do with fantasies of all sorts. Their scale also produces this little shiver of excitement—they are big and small. This piece is a miniature, but it’s big enough to also constitute a pretty sizable object. While I've never seen it, I'm thinking of the effect the Queens Museum's Panorama of the City of New York must have.

Of course I first noticed her with a piece that was completely over the top, her installation at PaceWildenstein last year in which she filled one of those big, first-floor, Chelsea former garage spaces with plastic cups arranged into a translucent, imaginary topography.

Here’s a picture of it we took of it. All of that stuff in the center of the room is plastic cups, stacked up and piled next to each other.

Here’s one of me and Dad posing with it:

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mail Art to Twist

Twist Gallery in the Arcade is doing a mail art show this summer. All of the details are below. Make something and send it to them.

Mail Art Show

Twist Art Gallery

August 2007

For our 1st Birthday, Twist Art Gallery announces a call for your small art! We are having a mail-art show this August. If you can make it and mail it, we will show it.
Deadline: Postmarked by July 15th

Theme is Summer

Mail to:

Twist Art Gallery

73 Arcade

Nashville, TN 37219



Your art will be shown in a gallery show August 4th through 26th, 2007.

Select art will be featured on

Artwork will not be returned.

Twist Art Gallery reserves the right to control and curate the content of the exhibition.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Adrienne Outlaw on Watkins Senior Show

I really should do a post every time Adrienne runs a piece on WPLN. Her profiles only run so often -- it's not the kind of thing you crank out several a week or even a month. This time she reviews the current Watkins Senior show referenced in my last post a couple of weeks ago. I haven't gotten over there yet, but I’m in town this week and should be able to stop by. You can find Adrienne’s story on the WPLN front page now, and later on it’ll be in the archives. She's got some good photos from the exhibit. Looks and sounds good.